First snows of the 2022-2023 season in the Green Mountains

I think it’s been a little while since we’ve had September snows here in the Green Mountains, but the mountains picked up some snow today for their first frozen accumulations of the 2022-2023 winter season.

The weather models have been indicating an early season shot of cool air visiting our area for several days now, with sub-freezing 850 mb temperatures dipping south of the Canadian border.  Residual moisture was expected to be around in the mountains as the colder air moved in to provide some flakes, and indeed that’s what we saw.

Reports of snow seemed most notable in the Central Greens around the Sugarbush area, and Powderfreak linked to a video of the flakes falling at Sugarbush Resort.  He also passed along a nice image of accumulations at the Battell Shelter on the Long Trail, which is in the Lincoln, VT area

A bit farther north on Mount Mansfield, the reports and pictures indicated that there was some glazing from accumulated ice.

After a fairly dry summer, the weather pattern has changed over the past few weeks to produce frequent synoptic precipitation, so let’s hope that sticks around we continue into the snow season!

Bolton Valley, VT 19APR2022

An image of fresh snow from an April snowstorm in the Timberline area parking lots at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Our most recent April snowstorm brought some solid accumulations even down to the base of Timberline at 1,500′.

I wasn’t able to get out for a ski tour this morning, but I did have enough time to head out to Bolton later in the afternoon and check out what this most recent storm had to offer.  As we know, a great feature of the March through June portion of the ski season is the long lasting daylight, and that makes late afternoon and even evening ski sessions very practical.

It kept snowing right through the day today, but it did warm up enough to melt back the earlier snow a bit, especially the lower one went in elevation.  There was still a solid coating of snow in place even in the late afternoon at the base of the Bolton Valley Access Road, and here’s the storm accumulations profile I found at that point:

340’: T-1”
1,000’: 1-2”
1,500’: 3-4”
2,000’: 7-8”
2,500’: 8-10”
3,000’: 10-12”

This storm was unquestionably another solid resurfacing of the snowpack at elevation.  The mountains must have had at least an inch and a half of liquid equivalent as snow, and combined with the density of that snow, it was enough to resurface slopes of just about any angle, right up to the steepest of the steep.  The density of the snow meant that it covered, and stayed stuck to, just about every slope out there.  It’s easy for snow to be too dense to enable quality turns though, and this storm didn’t just flirt with that line, it flew way past it.  Even the folks out in the west coast ranges that routinely deal with Sierra Cement and Cascade Concrete would have cried after dealing with this stuff.

An image of new snow from an April snowstorm at the base area of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Some of the dense accumulations of new snow at the main base area today

There are times when you’re ski touring, and you can’t quite tell what the quality of the turns is going to be like until you really rip off the skins and start your descent; this was not one of those times.  Right from the start of my tour, I could tell that the skiing was going to be disastrous.  On the lower half of the mountain from say 2,000’ on up to ~2,500’, the snow was super dense, with a bit of melting going on to increase the density just a bit more for good measure.  I held out a little hope that the quality of the snow in the higher elevations would improve, as it often does with lower temperatures producing drier snow that skis better.  “Ha”, not this time.  As I continued to ascend, the snow conditions only got worse.  The snow went from something that was super dense and a bit wet, that you really didn’t sink into much… to an even worse version of that.  As temperatures dipped below freezing on the upper mountain, the top couple of inches of snow has become a solid mass that produced the most horrible, upside-down snowpack you could imagine.  The skiing was challenging, dangerous, disgusting, and everything in between.

An image of snow from an April snowstorm curling off a roof at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Spring snow doing what it does out at the resort today

So the snowfall from this storm was indeed a great resurfacing, and a solid addition to the mountain snowpack, but it would have taken another good half foot or so of drier snow to really get the immediate quality of the ski surfaces up to snuff in the Bolton Valley area.  It was snowing while I was out there today, with some nice steady snow at times, but there was probably only another inch or two of additional snow above the dense stuff, so not enough to really bring up the snow quality to something more respectable.

Every spring snowstorm is different though, and that’s part of the fun of experiencing them, and we’ll just have to see what the next one does.

Bolton Valley, VT 02APR2022

An image of Erica and Ty on the Wilderness Lift line after a spring snowstorm at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of Ty Telemark skiing in some powder on the Wilderness Lift Line area at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Ty was out with us for some Telemark skiing today, and reported that he was making some of his best Tele turns that he could recall!

With the snow from this latest storm, E and I headed up to Bolton for a session today with Ty, who’s back from school on spring break.  We got to the mountain reasonably early, with some concern about how the powder was going to hold up as the day warmed, but even as of midday that wasn’t a concern at elevation.  It was probably in the 20s F when we arrived, and combined with the breeze, it was chilly.  It was excellent touring weather, and the powder stayed cold and dry.  Even at midday, the higher elevation snow was dry, although snow in the mid to lower elevations in directly sunlight was starting to be affected by the sun.

An image of Ty out on a ski tour after an April snowstorm at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in VermontThe mountain was reporting 4 inches of new snow, but I’d say that was a fairly conservative report – I was finding 5-6” new at the 2,000’ elevation, and as much as 8” up above 3,000’.  We started our session with a tour at Wilderness up to ~2,800’ or so.  Wilderness is 100% natural snow, so the decent amount of base in many spots was impressive, but the usual windswept or sunny spots were lean on coverage.  Those areas of lean coverage were fine for grassy and/or low angle slopes, but you wouldn’t have wanted to tackle anything steep that didn’t have existing base.

I’d say the very best snow we encountered yesterday was on Alta Vista – the ridgeline and skier’s right of the headwall were windswept as usual, but the protected left side of the headwall held some nice, semi-packed snow.  Below that though was the real gold mine.  They had groomed the skier’s left of the trail, but the skier’s right held about 8 inches of chowder that was mostly bottomless, and we couldn’t believe how good the skiing was there.  We were wishing they hadn’t groomed anywhere if it could have meant the snow would have been like that.  The Vista Quad was on wind hold until about midday though, so we were up on Alta Vista not too long after the lift started running, and I think that helped set up the incredible snow quality there.

An image of ski tracks in fresh snow from an early April snowstorm at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
We found some great areas of midwinter snow out the mountain today in areas of the main mountain where good base was still in place.

It was great to catch a day of skiing with Ty while he was back.  Although he’s got plenty of breaks between Thanksgiving, the long holiday break, sinter break, and spring break, you still never know when schedules and good snow might line up.  Ty said today was probably his best Telemark day ever in terms of comfort level and confidence with his turns, so that was exciting to hear.  He’s still learning and improving, even at this age.  He also finally got to visit the Miso Toh Kome stand for the first time, and he’s a total sushi fiend, so he loved it.  I’ve been sending him pictures every time I’ve gotten food from there over the past few weeks to build it up… and maybe give him a bit of a hard time about missing out as well!

Bolton Valley, VT 28MAR2022

An image of heavy snowfall taking place during a March snowstorm in the village area of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of a sign about ski touring with some fresh snow during a March snowstorm near the base area of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
This morning saw some additional snow accumulations from our ongoing storm cycle.

With the way it was pounding heavy snow when I left Bolton yesterday, and their morning report indicating a foot of snow for the storm total at that point, I figured another ski session was in order today.

Snow levels had dropped all the way to the valleys yesterday, but they really didn’t start picking up much accumulation at those lower elevations until the evening.  Even the valleys were coated in white this morning, so accumulations started there, and the mountains just tacked on more.

When I first got up to the mountain this morning, I encountered blizzard like conditions due to the snowfall and wind, and the wind was certainly stronger than I saw at any point yesterday.  Like yesterday, the snow would often come in pulses – you’d have light to moderate snowfall with a brightening of the sky, and then visibility would drop and you’d encounter heavy snow.  At one point on today’s tour, intense snow came on so fast that visibility dropped to ~100 feet in just seconds.  I was in the middle of taking some photos, and had use some of the initial exposures because part of what I was shooting about 200 feet away literally became invisible behind the snowfall, and I just had to move on.

An image of a bike ramp in the Wilderness Woods area of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
I got this image just before heavy snowfall hit and literally made this whole scene disappear before my eyes.

The temperatures this morning was pretty cold, down in the single digits F, so I found the snow a bit slow except for the less settled/lower density areas.  The more consolidated areas of powder with the finer grains or wind-based compaction were just on the slow side due to the combination of temperatures and the snow density

“Based on my ski sessions from yesterday and today, I wouldn’t put the current skiing in the top 20% of the season’s turns, but probably into that next quintile down. It was definitely good, but even in this fairly lackluster season, we’ve had a number of better storm cycles in terms of both total liquid equivalent, subsurface quality, and powder quality/dryness.”

Based on my ski sessions from yesterday and today, I wouldn’t put the current skiing in the top 20% of the season’s turns, but probably into that next quintile down.  It was definitely good, but even in this fairly lackluster season, we’ve had a number of better storm cycles in terms of both total liquid equivalent, subsurface quality, and powder quality/dryness.  With the continued snowfall, today’s additional liquid equivalent was enough to bump up the resurfacing to really encompass blue and some black terrain.  The biggest bump I think this most recent event gets when it comes to the overall quality of the ski experience was due to skier numbers, which were way down.  I was touring in the late morning today and there were only 3 or 4 tracks coming down Lower Turnpike where the Wilderness Uphill Route is located.  A typical midseason day would definitely have seen more activity by that point.  Sure, it was a Monday, but yesterday was sort of the same; it’s just that time of year when many people don’t have the drive to ski because it’s not wintry where they are, or they’ve moved on to other activities, or whatever.  That’s of course one of the reasons March and April are so great in the mountains – we keep getting snow, and the availability of fresh tracks is a little easier.

I’ve updated yesterday’s accumulations profile with the additions I saw this morning:

340’:  0” -> 1-2”

1,000’: T -> 2”

1,200’:  1” -> 2-3”

1,500’:  2” -> 3”

2,000’:  4” -> 5”

2,500’:  5” -> 6”

3,000’:  6”

3,300’:  6”+

Today’s tour only brought me up to ~2,700’, so I can’t update those numbers from the higher elevations, but the trend between the additional snowfall and settling seemed to be to tack on another inch or two to what was present yesterday afternoon.

We may have another storm coming into the area for next weekend, so we’ll see if we get some turns out of another spring storm cycle.

Bolton Valley, VT 27MAR2022

An image of heavy snow falling and a snowmobile covered with snow during a late March snowstorm at the main base are of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of ski tracks in fresh powder from a late March snowstorm on the Cougar Trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Checking out some of the fresh tracks in the new snow while out on my ski tour today.

Even with Powderfreak’s timely snow updates providing knowledge of how much snow fell and how it was skiing on Mansfield today, you never really know quite how it’s going to be until you get up on the mountain.  I’d seen Bolton’s initial morning report of 1-3” in the 2,000’-3,000’ elevation range, so when I found 2” at the Timberline Base at 1,500’ on the way up the Access Road, I knew the accumulations had been increasing through the morning.

Arriving at the main base, I started out the ski day with a tour up to the Wilderness Summit at ~3,150’, and someone had also broken trail up Ricker Mountain, so I followed that for a bit and probably topped out around 3,300’.  This was one of those days where it was definitely nice to be able to start touring above 2,000’ with the elevation dependence of the snowfall.

The powder skiing was great, so after my tour, I hung around for some lift-served laps as well. There was plenty of fresh snow in those runs, since I was able to connect over to parts of Wilderness on those runs for powder laps.  As of midday, there was already a solid resurfacing of the low angle terrain, so aside from any scoured areas, the powder on that terrain was skiing beautifully.  Even low-angle terrain that had been skier packed was excellent, so this new snow had adhered nicely to the subsurface.  On one of my lift-served runs, I saw this in play with the quiet turns of skiers on Bear Run and Sprig O’ Pine as I passed over on the Vista Quad.

An image of snowfall and drifting snow at the Wilderness Summit during a late March snowstorm at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Up at the Wilderness Summit today, with some interesting snowdrifts starting to form

I’m not sure how much liquid equivalent has been put down at elevation with this storm, since we’re certainly not getting as much liquid down here in the valley as the mountains are.  We’ve had about 0.12” of liquid from this event down here, but based on how the powder turns felt today, the mountains had probably seen 0.3-0.5” up high as of midday?  Anyway, medium angle terrain was a mixed bag in terms of sufficient resurfacing.  In areas of untracked powder over at Wilderness, I was generally getting bottomless turns even up to some single black terrain.  There were some great turns in areas that hadn’t been scoured.  When I was over skiing the lift-served terrain on Vista though, you were definitely getting down to the old base on the blues and blacks – there certainly hasn’t been enough liquid equivalent put down with this event to hold up to those levels of skier traffic.

Today it was snowing all the way down to the valley floor, but accumulations didn’t start until ~1,000’.  Here’s the new snow accumulations profile I found around midday:

340’:  0”

1,000’: T

1,200’:  1”

1,500’:  2”

2,000’:  4”

2,500’:  5”

3,000’:  6”

3,300’:  6”+

Once above the 2,000’ level, there weren’t any massive increases in accumulations that I saw, just sort of slow, steady increase, as the profile shows.  The powder was meaty as Powderfreak had indicated in his report, so powder turns were great.

The snowfall today ranged from huge, pounding flakes, to lighter episodes where the snow continued, but the sky would brighten.  It was really pounding when I left, and made me want to stay for another run or two.  I’m not sure if it can keep up at today’s snowfall pace overnight, but tomorrow would obviously be another great day if it did.

An image of heavy snowfall near the base of the Wilderness Chairlift at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Another view of some of the heavy snowfall coming down today near the base of the Wilderness Chair

In terms of not quite knowing what it’s going to be like until you get there, today definitely delivered.    Overall, the snow was great, and so was the scenery.  It was often snowing hard with those big flakes, but the light levels and visibility were often pretty high because it’s now late March.

Bolton Valley, VT 13MAR2022

A black and white image of Jay skiing powder after Winter Storm Quinlan on the Spell Binder trail in the Timberline area of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of Erica skiing the powder from Winter Storm Quinlan in the KP Glades area of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
As long as you knew the areas that have held onto good base snow, there was some great off piste skiing today thanks to Winter Storm Quinlan, as E demonstrates in the KP Glades.

Today was the day after the storm (Winter Storm Quinlan), and the weather had settled down.  E and I headed up for morning turns at Timberline, and the conditions were great.  It was still cold by March standards, somewhere in the teens F in the morning.  The storm total reported by Bolton Valley was around 18 inches.

We spent our entire morning at Timberline, and just stayed there since there was plenty of snow even down to 1,500’, and there was still some wind around as we hit 2,500’.  My depth checks generally revealed about 12” of new snow after settling down in the Timberline  elevations, which with the density at the beginning of the storm was plenty to cover most on piste terrain.  Initially, the headwalls of the steepest terrain areas were closed, since they had been scoured by the winds and thus not covered as well as they otherwise would have been.  The traverses below them were in good shape though, so that gave you access to run after run of untracked powder on trails like Spell Binder.  Eventually, patrol even opened the Spell Binder headwall, but you had to be quite cautious going down the most scoured sections.

An image of Jay skiing powder from Winter Storm Quinlan on the Spell Binder Trail of the Timberline area at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Jay enjoys some of that Winter Storm Quinlan powder today on Spell Binder

For off piste runs, you had to know the areas with good base depths, but the skiing in those areas was excellent.  The usual steepest areas were still sketchy of course, as one storm can only do so much to cover up areas with poor base depths.  E and I had a great run in the lower KP Glades, and when we showed it to Dylan and Parker once they arrived it the early afternoon, they were pretty impressed with the conditions as well.  E and I left around 1:00 P.M., but the boys did a lot of off piste exploring in the afternoon, and my Dylan’s ski got a solid core shot to show for it.

“My depth checks generally revealed about 12” of new snow after settling down in the Timberline elevations, which with the density at the beginning of the storm was plenty to cover most on piste terrain.”

The parking lots up at the Village were already full when we arrived in the morning, so the Timberline Quad had intermittent periods with a lift queue as the people arriving made their way up to the main mountain, but thankfully those died off as people dispersed.  Bolton opened the new expansion to the Timberline Lodge for the first time this weekend, and it looks quite nice.  I hear they are also going to use it as rentable space for conferences and events, but it’s going to be a great addition to the space in the lodge.​

Bolton Valley, VT 12MAR2022

An image of the parking lots containing cars covered with snow during Winter Storm Quinlan at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image showing strong winds and heavy snow drifting during Winter Storm Quinlan at the Wilderness Summit area of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
40 to 50 MPH winds and heavy snowfall from Winter Storm Quinlan raked the Wilderness Summit today.

Our latest system, Winter Storm Quinlan, was just getting going today, but once it got rolling, it was quite a ride, and I’d say that term applies to both the skiing and the driving.  Snowfall rates down here at the house were running at around an inch an hour during earlier day, and the higher elevations were obviously doing at least that well.  With that in mind, I decided to hit the mountain in the afternoon, by which point there should have been a good chance at a solid resurfacing of the slopes.  I had no idea how long the lifts were going to hold out in terms of the wind, so I packed midfats and fat skis, with skins for both.  It’s always a good insurance policy to have the skins on hand for these types of storm days.

E opted out of heading up with me, since she suspected the driving on the access road was going to be outrageously hairy, and that the storm conditions on the hill were going to brutal.  She was, of course, correct on both accounts.  On the drive up the Bolton Valley access road, I saw two cars that had ditched on their descents.  That wasn’t bad compared to some storms, but it was certainly a sign.  Both vehicles had gone off at those steep bottom pitches of the access road as it makes its final dive into the Winooski Valley, which is a common area for cars to bail.  For one of the vehicles, a tow truck was just getting set up to pull it out, and it looked like the operator was going to need to take up the entire roadway to do it.  Thankfully, he waved me by just as he was about to rig up.  In the midst of the heavy snowfall, the scene felt like something out of “Highway Through Hell”.  Thankfully, it wasn’t a big rig off the road, but the weather fit the bill.  I could see that there were multiple plows working the road to try to keep up with the snowfall, because it was constantly pouring down and making the driving rough.

An image of heavy snowfall in the Bolton Valley Ski Resort Village in Vermont during Winter Storm Quinlan
Heavy snowfall in the Bolton Valley Village this afternoon during Winter Storm Quinlan

Up above 2,000’ at the resort, Quinlan was going full tilt in terms of both snowfall rates and wind.  Obviously the skiers and riders were dressed for it and took it in stride, but you could see that Village elevations had already taken quite a pounding during the day.  By that point, the storm had put down 8-10” of new snow in the Village, and the parking lots hadn’t been plowed since the morning.  Moving through the lots was tough with all that snow, and cars without 4WD/AWD and clearance, were definitely struggling to get around.  I got a spot right in the top lot from someone who had recently left, but I spent a good amount of time packing and checking my spot to ensure that I was going to be able to get out later.

I hopped on the Snowflake Lift and took a run on Sprig O’ Pine to find that indeed there had been quite a resurfacing of the slopes.  That 8-10” of snow certainly wasn’t fluff, and it had started out quite dense, allowing it to bond to the subsurface.  The Vista Quad and Wilderness Chair were already down on wind hold, and just as I skied up to the entrance of the Mid Mountain Chair, it went down on wind hold as well.  When Mid Mountain goes down, you know the wind is serious.

I could have done some additional laps on Snowflake or headed down to the Timberline Quad, but I really didn’t have a sense for how long they might be able to keep running with the winds.  So, I grabbed my skins from the car and headed to the Wilderness Uphill Route.  The Lower Turnpike area was sheltered from the winds as usual, but above 3,000’ on the ridgeline, the winds were just brutal.  The winds had to be 40 to 50 MPH sustained, and when I hit the final traverse of Peggy Dow’s to the Wilderness Summit, I almost couldn’t skin across because there were already waist-high drifts blocking the route.  I had to break trail along the eastern edge of the traverse and cut between the drifts and the trees.  Conditions at the Wilderness Summit were a maelstrom, and even in the most sheltered spot I could find, it was still so windy that packing up my skins was a struggle.  I laughed to even think of the upper lifts running under those conditions.

I’d say the snowfall accumulations at that point were rough 8-10” at ~2,000’ and 10-12” at 3,000’, and the skiing, as one would expect, was excellent.  As noted, there had been dense snow at the start of the storm, and everything of moderate pitch, or even higher angle pitch if the subsurface was smooth, had been resurfaced.  I’d seen a couple small groups of folks descending while I was heading up, but after that, I saw nobody.  I essentially had the entire main mountain area to myself at that point, and it was just point, go, and ski lots of fresh powder.

An image of ski tracks in powder snow during Winter Storm Quinlan at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
With all the upper lifts down on wind hold, I had the run of the mountain and plenty of powder on today’s descent from Wilderness.

An image of the Miso Kome restaurant Menu with snow from Winter Storm Quinlan in the base area of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in VermontWith the solitude I’d experienced out on my tour, the intensity of the ongoing storm, and the fact that it was already after 4:00 P.M., I expected to return to a deserted base area.  But that wasn’t the case; the Snowflake Lift and Mighty Mite were still running, and some folks were even skiing.  After being up in the 40-50 MPH winds, the 20-30 MPH winds around the base area did feel a bit tamer.  I couldn’t believe that the new Miso Kome Japanese food stand outside the base lodge was operating, but I’d yet to have a chance to try it, so despite the stormy conditions, I took it as a sign.  If they were willing to stay open during a storm like this, then hey, I’ll take the opportunity to try out their food.  While attempting to read their menu, which was on a sign pitched several feet away from the stand, it was snowing so hard that I had to keep wiping off the new snow just to get through the various items.  It had to be snowing at around 2”/hour at that point.  Inside the lodge, everything appeared to be quite normal, and I was even able to grab a couple of pizzas from Fireside Flatbread to bring home to the family.  So I guess storm or no storm, the services roll on at the resort.

An image of the base are of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont during Winer Storm Quinlan
Despite the fury of Winter Storm Quinlan, a few brave skiers and riders were still out and about around the base area at Bolton Valley this afternoon

The final part of Saturday’s outing was the descent down the access road.  I’ve obviously been down that road in many, many storms, but the timing of this one with the heavy snowfall rates made it one of the more challenging descents I can recall.  We were crawling down the road.  Cars were moving at a snail’s pace because the intense snowfall made it hard for the plows to keep up, and the road surface was so slick that you’d almost be slipping off the edge at a full stop.  On more than one occasion, I opted to ride the crown of the road because just the natural drainage slope in your lane wanted to guide you off.  About halfway down, we caught a nice boost from a plow that was on the way up and set up some added traction to the center of the road.  I used that slice of extra traction as much as possible for the remainder of the descent.

It was great to get home with the food and talk about the whole experience at dinner, and all told, that was certainly one of the more eventful ski outings of the season.

Bolton Valley, VT 26FEB2022

An image of Erica and Tyler getting ready to ski some powder from Winter Storm Oaklee below the Spell Binder headwall at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
An image of Ty skiing powder from Winter Storm Oaklee in the Timberline area at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Ty out there charging through the powder from Winter Storm Oaklee at Bolton Valley

This morning, Ty, E, and I headed up to Bolton Valley to check out the snow from Winter Storm Oaklee.  The boys were both asleep as E and I were just about to leave to get in on some of the fresh powder, and we assumed they were just going to sleep in.  Ty just happened to wake up at the right time, and he was excited to join us, so that was fortuitous timing for him!

Having clear skies, comfortable winter temperatures, and about a foot of fresh snow held the potential for some great skiing.  Based on my snow density observations down at the house, the storm cycle progressed from denser 8-10% H2O snow into some impressive 2-4% H2O champagne, and indeed what we found out there at Bolton today was some very high quality powder.  This was also the first chance for E to try out her new Rossignol Spicy 7 HD skis, and she was very happy with how they felt with today’s conditions.

An image of Erica Telemark skiing in powder from Winter Storm Oaklee at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
E dancing through today’s powder with some impressive contrast between the cold smoke, bright sun, and snowpack

The denser snow from the front end of the storm cycle wasn’t too evident underfoot actually, so the only major downside of today’s powder skiing was that it wasn’t quite bottomless.  Depending on the pitch, you were certainly touching down on the subsurface, but on everything except for the steepest terrain, the powder turns were quite good.  On moderate-angle terrain you could typically get by with 80-90% bottomless skiing, and because the powder was just so incredibly dry, you could ride it on lower angle terrain and it skied really well because of such low impedance.

An image of Jay skiing off piste in the powder from Winter Storm Oaklee at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Jay getting a taste of the off piste Winter Storm Oaklee powder today at Bolton

Measurements throughout the morning revealed plenty of 8-12” powder depths, and we just ended up staying down at Timberline for our entire session because there was rarely a lift queue of note.  A lot of trails weren’t open simply because the headwalls didn’t have quite enough snow to cover them up fully, but routes were available to traverse below them, and all that terrain was just loaded with quality powder.  We generally stayed on piste because there was plenty of powder available there, and it was the better option anyway.  Some off piste areas are dicey because of the recent warmth, but the off piste areas that are typically protected from the warmth and are well manicured were in great shape, so we did have some nice turns in those spots.

Storms like this are where one’s knowledge of their local hill really comes into play for putting together a fun session vs. one where you’re constantly dodging rocks and logs, wrecking your skis, or even worse, potentially wrecking yourself.  Although we did spend most of our time on piste over the weekend because there was plenty of available powder there, our travels also brought us into some off piste lines that we trusted, and we found great turns in those areas.

An image of Ty jumping while skiing the Wood's Hole area of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
You wanted to be careful about which off piste areas you skied today due to the recent warmth, but the usual protected spots were skiing quite well with the fresh powder.

From conversations with friends and colleagues who have skied in different spots in the Northern Greens over the past few days, it sounds like with respect to off piste turns, the farther north you go, the better the base gets.  These next couple of bread and butter systems that are coming though this week should only help in that regard, and then we’ll have to see if that mixed system that’s farther out there in time can further substantiate the base.

Bolton Valley, VT 12FEB2022

An image of Dylan in ski goggles smiling on a February day at the Timberline area of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of Dylan skiing the Showtime trail in the Timberline area of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Dylan throwing around some of the loose snow on Timberline today as he enjoys some sun and comfortable temperatures

This weekend’s forecast suggests the reverse of last weekend when it comes to temperatures.  Whereas Sunday was the warmer day last time around, this weekend, Saturday is the day.  We’ve had a couple of nice, milder days this past week with temperatures up around 40 F, and that spell continued into today.  Tonight, the temperatures are expected to drop below zero F with the passage of a sharp cold front, and tomorrow’s highs are only in the single digits, so today was definitely the day to hit the slopes.

D, E, and I headed up to Timberline today for a ski session in the late morning.  The Timberline Quad seems to be back up to full capacity, so whatever repairs were needed must have been completed.  With full capacity loading, there were occasionally a few people forming a lift queue, but it was mostly just walk-on service.

An image of Erica on the Showtime trail in the Timberline area at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
E out in the sun for some Telemark turns on Showtime

Today’s outing on the mountain had a somewhat Colorado feel – temperatures were above freezing in the 30s to near 40 F, but the air was dry, and the snow stayed relatively dry as well.  There’s lots of loose, chopped up snow on the trails, and it really seems like we’re still just working with long-lasting leftovers from Winter Storm Landon.  I guess with low levels of skier traffic at Timberline, and the resort leaving parts of the trails ungroomed, that snow is just sticking around.  We had some sunny periods that really brightened up the session, and the snow got a bit sticky in a few spots, but in general I found even the sunniest areas of snow to be quite dry.  Even among the sunshine there were a few flakes falling today, and the views across the lake were impressive with squalls dropping snow among the Adirondacks ahead of an approaching clipper system.

An image of the Adirondack Mountains across Lake Champlain with snow squalls as viewed from the Timberline area at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Snow squalls were seen breaking out over the Adirondacks today ahead of an approaching Alberta Clipper system

I was on my Atomic RT-86 Tele Skis with an 86 mm waist, but I think even something in the 90-100 mm range would have been nice out there today with all the loose snow.  E was riding her old school Tele skis that have a 70 mm waist, and that lack of width just made it harder to negotiate the chop.  We actually discussed a similar theme during our Bolton Valley outing back on the 30th, when E and I were skiing some leftover powder and chopped up snow at Timberline.  It seemed like it was a good time to get E something wider for a daily Tele driver, so I ordered up a pair of Rossignol Spicy 7 HD skis.  Those were delivered earlier this week, and we actually just visited OGE to get them mounted this afternoon.  They should be a nice addition to her Tele quiver, and she can save her old skinniest Teles for real groomer days or early/late season situations with poor coverage.

An image of Dylan skiing the Showtime trail of the Timberline area at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Dylan heads off down Showtime through some of the loose snow.

We spent our time today on the main Timberline runs like Twice as Nice, Showtime, and Spell Binder, and despite some warm days this week, coverage is in pretty good shape for all those areas, which are all running on natural snow.  Not surprisingly, the Spell Binder headwall is the place with some thin cover, but it’s hard to overstate just how important it was to get those inches of liquid equivalent put down by Winter Storm Landon last weekend.  That really was an absolute game-changer on the season for the lower elevation slopes.

Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry, VT 05FEB2022

An image of some glades with powder snow to the west of the Holden's Hollow area during a ski tour on the Nordic and Backcountry Network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image showing some of the recent snow accumulations from Winter Storm Landon on the Nordic and Backcountry Network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Now that the back side of Winter Storm Landon has passed through the area, the local backcountry is loaded with beautiful accumulations of feathery powder that provides some fantastic skiing

With today’s high temperatures expected to be in the single digits F at elevation, touring seemed like the far better ski option, so I paid a visit to the Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry Network.  Overall ski conditions remain excellent thanks to the 1½ to 2 feet of snow that the local mountains just picked up from Winter Storm Landon, so despite the chilly temperatures, it’s time to get out there and make use of that great snow.

Today I toured over in the Holden’s Hollow area of the network, approaching from the back side of the ridge using the Telemark trail, and then sampling some descents on both the west and east sides.  Today’s tour had me in the 2,000’ – 2,500’ elevation band, and I’d say total snowpack depths at those elevations are in the 2 to 3 foot range.  In terms of surface snow, we’ve got enough different layers in the snowpack now, and they’re blending together enough, that it’s getting a bit tricky to actually decide what constitutes surface and subsurface snow/base.  If you’re very delicate with your measuring, you can find a bit of a dense layer about 16 inches down.  I think it’s safe to say that top section of the snowpack is the settled powder from Winter Storm Landon.  The dense layer below that is presumably some denser precipitation, perhaps from the start of the storm when temperatures were coming down and there was a mix of rain and snow.  Based on Powderfreak’s observations from Thursday, it doesn’t sound like there was too much rain at elevation, and since that layer is rather subtle, that would argue for that and/or a very good transition/blending with the drier snow above.

An image showing the depth of the powder after Winter Storm Landon in the backcountry near Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Even down near 2,000′ in elevation the depths of powder in the backcountry are in excess of 20 inches, requiring slopes with decent pitch for good turns in the untracked snow

Past that denser band, you’re into another 6 to 8 inches of powder before you hit something more solid that can really serve as a potential base.  That’s typically where I’d find that my poles could finally gain purchase, and it sounds like that’s similar over at Bretton Woods based on Alex’s comment yesterday here in the thread.  Having backcountry baskets would probably help a little bit in that regard.

There are a couple of other dense bands down in the snow there that I could detect when probing carefully, but I’d say the solid base is down there in the 22 to 24-inch range for those low to mid elevations, and I’ve got an image of my pole hitting that approximate depth with this report.  So if you’re first on an ascent and breaking in the skin track, plan on a good workout.  Thankfully, most of the route for my tour had seen some previous traffic, and I only had to break one section with perhaps 100’ of vertical, but it was a good deal of extra work.

A Google Earth map with GPS tracking data from a ski tour on the Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry Network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
A Google Earth map with GPS tracking data of today’s tour on the Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry Network

Right now in terms of the backcountry skiing around here, I’d argue that you really need black pitches or greater to have a reasonable descent without getting too bogged down or simply having to straight-line it too much.  I was on 115 mm skis that I’d just waxed, and I still had to seek out those pitches if the snow was untracked.  As long as you get the right pitch though, the powder skiing is excellent as one would imagine.